Tenant advocacy organizations are celebrating a decision from the BC Supreme Court which set aside a “renoviction” allowed by the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Vivian Baumann has lived in her apartment for 17 years. In 2014, her building was sold to a new landlord who later attempted to raise her rent above the maximum yearly increase. When this failed, the landlord gave her an eviction notice, claiming that her unit needed to be vacant in order to carry out renovations. At the Residential Tenancy Branch, Vivian was represented by a legal advocate from the First United Church who argued that the real reason for the eviction was not the need to carry out the renovations, but rather because the landlord wanted to move in higher-paying tenants.
"Many landlords 'renovict' tenants to try to get around the rent increase limitations in the law. The renovation provisions in the Residential Tenancy Act are being used to evict lower paying tenants," says Didi Dufresne, Manager of Legal Advocacy at First United Church.
The Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator ignored Ms. Baumann’s evidence, and upheld the notice of eviction. Fortunately, the court intervened.
“We are happy with the court’s decision, and for Vivian, who has endured a very stressful couple of months. However, the Act and the Residential Tenancy Branch need to do more to protect tenants like her from the inappropriate use of the renovation provisions in the legislation,” says Jonathan Blair, a lawyer with Community Legal Assistance Society who represented Vivian at BC Supreme Court.
The provincial government has promised to introduce new laws to protect tenants facing renovictions. Unlike in other jurisdictions, BC tenants do not have a right of first refusal at the same rent. This allows landlords to use renovations as an excuse to get around our limited rent control laws. Vivian’s case is a poignant example of the problem with renovictions and the inadequacy of the Residential Tenancy Branch to address such issues.
The Community Legal Assistance Society has been providing free legal services to marginalized British Columbians since 1971 in the areas of mental health, human rights, housing, income security, and workers’ rights. We have assisted tens of thousands of British Columbians over the years through law reform, test case litigation, systemic advocacy, delivery of public legal education, summary advice, workshops and representation of clients before administrative tribunals and the courts.
First United has been engaged in legal advocacy work since the 1970s, providing much-needed legal assistance, advice and representation to low-income and vulnerable people in the Downtown Eastside. Today, we support clients with upwards of 2,800 unique cases every year, helping people resolve a range of issues, including tenancy, social assistance, old age security, and more. We are committed to empowering people to assert their legal rights and make their voices heard.
Jonathan Blair, Lawyer
Community Legal Assistance Society
Didi Dufresne, Manager of Legal Advocacy
First United Church
604.251.3323 ext. 103